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Dubai IT Association out to make its mark

Several members of the Dubai Internet Community joined forces last month to establish the Dubai IT Association. Channel Middle East hears how the reseller channel - not to mention the wider market - stands to benefit.

By the time you read this, the Dubai IT Association should have had the first of what it hopes will be many meetings. Dubai's inaugural technology alliance - which is fronted by Dubai Internet City (DIC) - may have been a while in coming, but those involved in its formation are adamant it is going to be worth the wait. DIC was established six years ago and in that time it has attracted more than 800 companies, many of which are revered names in the global IT world.

Indeed, the list of founding members behind the Dubai IT Association is testimony to DIC's growing reputation as the nerve centre for Middle East IT.

HP, Sun, Nokia, Intel, Microsoft and Cisco - each of which is among the largest technology employers in the region - have lent their weight to the Association, while UAE internet applications vendor Ducont and graphics giant 3M have also joined them at the table.

With such a renowned group of technology players pledging their commitment to the group, it is little surprise that the Association already possesses lofty ambitions to lure 200 members.

The Dubai IT Association's mission statement is simply to "drive the development of ICT in Dubai" but its set of aims is multi-pronged. As well as attempting to enhance the environment for the effective use of ICT in the government and private sector, the alliance is vowing to advise end-user organisations on ICT policies and initiatives. It also plans to identify areas of specialisation in education that need to be promoted to facilitate research capabilities at both the applied and fundamental levels, and recommend ways to increase internet and broadband penetration in Dubai.

Local technology resellers operating in the Dubai marketplace can expect to benefit from the Association's formation too. "Resellers have issues or recommendations that can be put together and passed on to different bodies," commented Jamal Abdul Salam, chief executive at DIC. "One issue that we're concentrating on is staff development. This is an issue that's really resonated with charter members; ensuring that they have a steady supply of good qualified people. Certainly, resellers have that issue and they need people with a good knowledge of products or market. How do you work with universities to develop these kinds of people and what sort of training do you provide, for example?"

Much of the credit for the creation of the Dubai IT Association goes to DIC CEO Abdullatif Almulla, according to Abdul Salam. He says that Almulla - who previously ran Microsoft's South Gulf operation - has played a key role in bringing the various vendors together. "The idea came from the community; most of these IT companies are involved in associations like this elsewhere," explained Abdul Salam. "But the push and the support and power of Abdullatif contributed to it. He is one of the people that asked why we didn't we have [an IT association] here when he was a business partner. Now that he is our CEO, he is the one who supported the idea, and with his guidance he is really giving us a push in getting this association started," said Abdul Salam.

The Dubai IT Association has been set up as a non-profit organisation with the funding of the group likely to come from membership fees.

"Although the fees are not yet finalised, one of the ideas is to have different categories and that depends on the company itself," explained Abdul Salam. "If they decide to be in category A, B or C then that's the company's choice. My recommendation to the founders is going to be that we have different categories, but leave it to the members themselves to decide where they should fit because each member will benefit from the Association differently. We need everyone to really participate in order to get this project to succeed."

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